In a nutshell, the bloating of the midsection is a reaction causing inflammation.
While there can be non-food related causes such as work/life stress, hormones, or other health complications, we are going to focus on the food aspect. In my experience and to keep this simple, bloating is the result of food not being accepted by the body due to the digestive system not working at optimum levels.
There is a huge list of causes, but I will focus on probably the most common which is lifestyle food choices. Meaning food, you eat on a regular basis that has over time shifted the balance of bacteria and upset the working order thus the overall health of your digestive system. I find the best way to reduce bloating is to limit food you know has a negative effect on your body. That is the easy part. The difficulty comes when you bloat from non-processed food and figuring out the cause. This can take some experimenting to determine.
Everyone is different. What works for a friend may not work for you. Try different methods and learn more about your body. Monitor bloating and energy levels. Common foods to avoid are packaged and processed foods, sweets, gluten, dairy, carbonated drinks, and onions. Sadly, even garlic and broccoli which are considered ‘superfoods’ can cause mysterious bloating. Dining out can be a problem due to unknown ingredients and preparation of some meals.
I would next suggest the following tips to help improve gut health and limit the occurrence of bloating:
- A course of live probiotics which are available from most pharmacies and health stores. Highly recommended if you have recently run a course of antibiotics. Some people have mentioned their stomachs felt a little grumbly after a few days, however this is your body trying to regain a good to bad bacteria balance.
- A glass of room temperature water upon waking. Lemon is a common addition. This is very easy on the stomach and will help rehydrate the body after a good night’s rest.
- If you are someone who is not a fan of breakfast due to bloating, I would wait 2-3 hours before eating to allow the digestive system to work for you more efficiently. A small meal with added fiber such a smoothie with fruit and psyllium husk may be a good start. This is where fasting can be effective. An 8-hour eating window from 12pm to 8pm for example.
- Greens! The darker the better. High in fibre, usually light on the stomach and packed with nutrients.
- Aim to wait at least an hour after eating before you exercise. Allow the body time to break down your food. Same goes with after training. Your digestive system slows down during training as it is not required much during the exercise process. Have you ever felt bloated drinking too much water or having a protein shake straight after training? If you have eaten a good hour prior, your body should have what it needs nutrient wise. Let your digestive system kick back into gear before you eat.
- Start with smaller meals, then a larger lunch. Afternoon tea and dinner can be smaller again. This will help your stomach digest your food more effectively before getting ready for bed.
- A herbal tea such a peppermint or ginger, honey and lemon is gentle on the stomach, aids digestion and lowers inflammation.